07 December 2012

Levi's Double Dice

Just a quickie - On the new G+ Gamecraft community (and communities are brand new) Levi Kornelsen asks the following:
Okay, so, dice mechanic thing; kind of a "little idea" I keep playing with.Consider a character with skills like those in Skyrim - so, ranging generally from 15 - 30 to start, and up to near 100.Now, imagine you roll 2d10, and read them as percentile both ways.  So, 9,2 is 29 AND 92.If you succeed (roll skill or less) one way of reading?  Partial success.  If you do it both ways?  Complete success.How does that hit you, overall?  Gimmicky or good?    #rpg    #roleplaying   #rpggames  

And here is what the cumulative distribution if Partial and Complete success looks like, assuming you need to roll your skill level or less, and "00" is both "0" and "100":

That's it --- I said it was a quickie!
Edit: Maybe the chart title should be "2D10 Double-Dice". Oh well ...

21 September 2012

The Grinder - September 2012

The most recent of my collection of miscellaneous articles, which were found in my refrigerator on return from vacation.

--- --- --- The Grinder --- September 21, 2012 --- --- ---

A little bit of Battletech history from a Mechwarrior Online interview with Jordan Weisman (source 1, 2):
MWO: What was your inspiration to create BattleTech?
Jordan Weisman: I had seen images and model kits from the Japanese shows Macross, Southern Cross, and Crusher Joe. I loved the visuals but wanted to create a story for them in which the Mechs where only machines, but machines that their pilots imbued with personality like we do with our warplanes, tanks, and even cars. I wanted to adapt these wonderful machines to setting that was born from Western tradition, in this case a retelling the Roman Successor States. And most of all, I wanted to create a game which merged the reality of tank warfare with the sci-fi/fantasy of giant suits of armor.
Emphasis added: I never knew about the historical reference to the fall of Rome. Parts of the Battletech universe story line makes more sense to me now (not much more sense, but hey, it's Battletech).

image: From The Warp
Painting Pink - From the Warp -- A nice little tutorial on an often misunderstood color. -->

(Some of you may recall my own misadventure with this lovely hue.)

From WIRED: An interview with Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World.  I want.

Web site for the book, and the Amazon page.

From Technology Review:

There might be some studying in my future, if I want figure this one out.

And now it's time to go clean out the 'Fridge, and maybe shave.

18 March 2012

History of Wargaming Videos

I have previously mentioned John Curry's History of Wargaming Project, mostly in reference to Fletcher Pratt's Naval Wargame (FPNW). I just discovered a series of YouTube videos from John Curry, and I am working my way through them. This will be a brief review, and maybe serve as a launch point for your own exploration.
--- More after the fold. ---

16 March 2012

The Grinder - March 2012

Haven't done this for a while, so there is a lot of grist for the mill.
Also, GBR has a Google+ page.

--- The Grinder, March 16, 2012 ---

Dice Sculptures, via Proof Math is Beautiful

Three recently released books from John Curry's

1. Donald Featherstone's Tank Battles in Miniature Vol 4
2. The Wargame Pioneers
3. Innovations in Wargaming
And a video, the first of a series = a future post topic.


Why you think you are good at something (when you really aren't).
From The Psychology of Video Games:
The Dunning-Kruger Effect and Multiplayer Games
More on Dunning-Kruger at Improbable Research.

**** The World's Funniest Joke ****

Eighteen (!!!) years in the making. This is love of miniatures!
Toy Soldiers ForeverThe "Old Third": All Present or Accounted For

Via GrogNews:
Make your own game counters online
Warfighter 101 Designer's Notes (a great read)
something fishy.

Maybe this should just be the GrogNews edition of the Grinder
Via GrogNews:  Games and Simulations, with Dr. James Sterrett

Gamasutra: How tough is your game? Creating Difficulty Graphs

The relationship between cubes and hexagons, animated. 
from Proof (Math is Beautiful)
These posts are fun, I should do them more often. ;-)

11 March 2012

Hot Topic: Battlemechs Dropped from Orbit

This happens in the cartoons, and in the occasional Battletech scenario, where a battlesuit/battlemech drops from orbit; these folks say it will get a little bit warm on the way down.

Journal of Physics Special Topics
P2_7 Mobile Suit Gundam: Falling From Space

R. Hall, A. West, M. McHugh, J. Blake,
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH.
November 30, 2011
This paper explores the upper limits of the active cooling system on board a Mobile Suit from the Gundam series as it goes through atmospheric re-entry. A Mobile Suit falling through the Earth’s atmosphere experiences drag forces of nearly 10,000 kN. The increase in temperature due to the resistive drag forces felt upon re-entry would require an active cooling system with an output of 112MW which is over 37 times greater than known power outputs on board Mobile Suits.

That's going to go over 30 on the heat scale. I also see they don't take into account any heat generated by deceleration, which means either more heat, or a very sudden stop. ;-)

The full article is a short exploration into some fun physics - find it here.

09 March 2012

Battletech Cake

A nice surprise treat at the Wednesday Battletech night:

A creation of the talented Mrs. D. All the guys were really impressed.
If I has known in advance, I would have carefully cleaned up a few miniatures and posed them on top.

You may be asking yourself the same question I asked myself, "Does the cake taste as good as it looks?"

To which the answer is "YES."

Nate D. informs meThank you for posting those. She was glad to hear that it wasn't just me who thought it was great. It's somewhere between semi-pro & a hobby for her, but if anyone needs a cake for any reason her email is [***].  She does have a portfolio of previous cake designs if anyone's looking for inspiration.
*** I chose not to publicly post the email. Contact me if you want to be put in touch.

06 March 2012

Special Request: Battletech in the Annapolis MD area

John F. sends me a request:
I'm looking to play more Battletech and Battleforce but haven't been able to find too many players in the Annapolis area.  Any chance you could point me to some locals on the East of I-95 side that are looking for another gamer?
Can anyone help him out? Post here or email me and I will put you in touch.

18 February 2012

Sword and Dragon: After the Dust UP

Today a follow up on our local Battletech sessions. We had been playing through the Sword and Dragon Starterbook scenarios, and this past Wednesday we finally finished the last scenario: Dust Up. I wrote about these sessions over a year ago, and despite the problems we managed to soldier through to the final mission. Our group is very persistent about playing scenario packs through to the end.

No, we haven't been playing these the whole time, we took several breaks, the most recent from mid-November to the start of this final mission, which played out these past three weeks. In the interim we played a few Grinders and some scenarios out of Tales of the Black Widow Company. I know I was critical of the Sword and Dragon scenarios, but it anything some of these TBWC scenarios are worse. But I digress.

In the course of the Sword and Dragon scenarios we made a few discoveries that are worth sharing (I hope).

Who won the final battle? Technically McKinnon's Raiders, but it was never a fair fight, and the Sabres make a good show of it. The bias towards the Davion forces, primarily in pilot skills and abilities was apparent from the beginning and carried through to the final mission. This helped the Raiders come out a little ahead on WP after every mission, leading to bigger and better mechs much sooner than the Sabres, and magnifying the advantage.

Some of the more powerful pilot abilities that make the characters so special might be fun once, or even occasionally, but used all the time are just silly. We got the feeling the S&D book was written by people who only play Battletech a few times a year, rather than by anyone who actually plays on a regular basis. Battletech should always be about the mechs, with only a very few pilots that really stand out. A single company where half the pilots have outrageously useful special abilities was a bad idea.

Those quirky mechs in the books, the ones that malfunction in such interesting ways, were the first things we sold off. If your want to write a scenario book with quirky mechs, some of those quirks must be worth keeping around. The most obvious way to do this would be to tie some of the pilot abilities to only work in combination with their quirky mechs. This would have helped with some of the game balance issues too.

When the player forces (McKinnon's Raiders or Sorenson's Sabres) are up against a randomly determined OpFor, it's usually a very one sided battle. Often the best the OpFor player can do is try to get some damage on every player mech, forcing them to spend more Warchest Points for repairs, and slowing their progress in future missions. This sort of game might be OK to introduce new players to the game in a scenario they can win, but new players on the OpFor side are going to get bored and quit. In our group of veteran players, it was sometimes a challenge to see how you could do in a losing effort. Other times we played crazy-aggressive, charging forward into fire in an effort to end the scenario quickly.

That's not to say the players always win. In several battles the OpFor was able to pull out a victory by luck or choosing the scenario setup to be especially difficult for the player force. In one particularly memorable defeat, our augmented recon lance (6 mechs) got their asses handed to them after the OpFor rolled 4 assault mechs, 2 heavies, and with veteran skills. If the post game discussion we determined that even our heaviest mechs might not have won.

In between scenarios we always had enough WP for repairs, and generally enough left over for a little new equipment or mechs. What both teams had trouble with was pilot hits. Pilots heal one hit if they sit out for a scenario, but after playing 3-4 missions we started to accumulated many injuries, and running out of healthy pilots. Our solution was to hire extra pilots and outfit a replacement lance with salvaged mechs, giving the  regular pilots more time off. Even this wasn't enough, and after out summer break to play the "historical" scenarios from the new map pack, our GM declared all pilots to be fully healed.

That wasn't the only problem with pilot hits, over time there were casualties. The characters/pilots Daniel Sorenson AND Ian McKinnon (both Company commanders) died; taking kicks to the head after their mechs had fallen. After McKinnon's death, for obscure reasons, the Raider's were renamed "Lenny's Lemmings".

Despite the problems I keep rumbling on (and on and on ...) about, one good thing that has come of this. We have nearly twice the number of regular players attending the weekly games now as we had a year ago. I think the focus on (mostly) old school Battletech has brought a lot of players back, and it's certainly nice to see the Singapore Longshoremen back up to full unit strength.

Later this month we begin playing the Wolf and Blake Starterbook, and we are already making plans to correct many of the problems we had with Sword and Dragon. Look for some posts on this topic in the coming months.

09 February 2012

Conditional Dice Rolls with Partial information

Last time I wrote about Conditional Dice Rolls, or using conditional probability to correct the results of an earlier roll that was made incorrectly. The rest of this will make more sense if you read that first.
To do this you need to know 2 things --- You need to know what the probability of success for your first roll, and what that probability should have been. But wait, there is one more thing, an important assumption I rather glossed over last time --- You need to have completely forgotten everything about the first roll except that you succeeded or failed.

And that's harder than you might think. ---> More after the fold --->

05 February 2012

Conditional Dice Rolls

It happened to me again at the Wednesday Battletech game, one of those honest mistakes that can happen in a complicated situation. My Griffin fired two medium lasers at a Jenner needing 7's or better, and both hit. A short time later I realized my mistake, I had miscounted and the roll should have been 8 or better. I could not remember what the original rolls had been.
There is a way to fix this, to repair my mistake, to determine if my shots really should have missed, and that is fair to both players. It's a good trick, and you don't even have to do any math to use it.

But you might have to roll a lot of dice.  ---> More after the fold --->

29 January 2012

My Wikipedia Problem

Some months back I started getting a lot of traffic from the Wikipedia page on Lanchester's Laws. It seems that someone had noticed my efforts on the subject and linked to me as a reference. It wasn't much really, just a reference in support of a single sentence - Here it is, and [5] links to my first post on Lanchester's Laws:
In modern warfare, to take into account that to some extent both linear and the square apply often an exponent of 1.5 is used.[4][5][6]
Citation: Lanchester's laws. (2011, December 12). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:02, January 30, 2012, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lanchester%27s_laws&oldid=465382667
I've put a lot of study into Lanchester's Laws, so I was happy that someone thought I was worth a reference, but I have a problem with that sentence. It's wrong.

To be fair, perhaps I ought to say it is incomplete statement on a complex topic, and the complete explanation would be much, much longer. It is true that an exponent between 1 and 2 is often used to approximate situations where both Linear and Square laws are in effect, but this exponent represents (in a very abstract sort of way) that a portion of each force are subject to the Linear law (exponent of 1), while the remainder is subject to the Square law (exponent of 2). There is no mathematical rule that makes any other values for the exponent correct, it just sort of works to describe how battles actually play out in an average sort of way. The article makes no previous mention of exponents at all, so it's hard to see how anyone could come away with a proper understanding of the statement. To my mind that makes it wrong.

Fixing it though, is another matter. I've thought about fixing it myself, and even contacted a Wiki editor about it, but I haven't had time or energy to take on the task. I still hope to get back to writing regularly again, but I have a stack of other topics to address, and I am not sure I really want to spend my time fixing someone else's problem. 

Tangent: If you are new to the subject of Lanchester's Laws, the Linear law (exponent 1) describes combat attrition in a one-on-one combat setting, such as might occur with archaic weapons or between aircraft in air-to-air dogfights. The Square law (exponent 2) applies when multiple combatants can attack the same target, and vice-versa, such as a naval gunnery battle. Those are ideas though, and in practice there is almost always some complex mixture of these situation.